“Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.”
The above quote is from a recent article for the New Yorker by Michael Specter about Dr. Oz, the most currently popular TV doctor. Specter described this sentiment as “chilling.” To me it sounds like a manifesto – a postmodernist attack on the scientific basic of modern medicine.
In my experience, this sentiment is often at the core of belief in so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In order to seem respectable and infiltrate the institutions of medical academia, proponents of CAM will say that their treatments are evidence-based and that they are scientific. They have a serious problem, however – their treatments are not evidence-based and are often grossly unscientific. Whenever someone bothers to look at their evidence and examine their science, therefore, they start to backtrack, eventually arriving at their true position, a postmodernist dismissal of science resembling Oz’s statement above. I have heard a hundred versions of the Oz manifesto from CAM supporters.
As with the postmodernist critique of science itself, there is a kernel of truth to the notion that science has its limits (which makes the sentiment more insidious). Scientists are humans, they have their biases and flaws, scientific studies are imperfect and often conflict, and there are often multiple opinions on specific clinical practices. Where postmodernists fall off the cliff, however, is in concluding from this that science has no legitimacy, that it is entirely a culturally-determined narrative with no special relationship to external reality.
This view, while flirted with by philosophers of science, has been rejected because it neglects the fact that science uses a valid method of justification. The process may be messy, but over time scientific evidence can objectively resolve differences of opinion. Experts can eventually agree on what works and what doesn’t, and from that a standard of care emerges. High quality evidence can become so overwhelming that there is no room left for personal opinion.
Short of a solid consensus, science-based practitioners can follow a hierarchy of evidence – we can base our practices on the best evidence currently available. CAM practitioners also fail to follow such a hierarchy of evidence.
MORE . . .
Recommended Reading: Top Ten Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine – Harriet Hall,M.D. (PDF)
- Are You Ready For the Oz Manifesto (sciencebasedmedicine.org)
- Why Do People turn to Alternative Medicine? (illuminutti.com)
- The Great and Powerful Oz versus science and research ethics (illuminutti.com)
- Dr. Oz’s miracle diet is malarkey (denverpost.com)
- Last Week In Science-Based Medicine (randi.org)
- Dr. Oz’s journey to the Dark Side is now more than complete: It’s homeopathy time! [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com)
- The Great and Powerful (Dr.) Oz, dissected in The New Yorker [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com)
- Dr. Oz’s Miraculous Medical Advice (slate.com)
What do you get when you mix slight of hand with pickpocketing? You get Apollo Robbins, also known as “the gentleman thief.” I love anything having to do with magic, illusions and slight of hand. But when you’re good enough to pick the pockets of Penn Jillette and Secret Service agents (YES! It’s true) (read below) it’s just … well … amazing!!!!!
This article from The New Yorker is rather lengthy, so let me begin by piquing your interest with this video. Watch carefully. You’ll love this.
Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
By Adam Green via The New Yorker
A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.
“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”
Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.
“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.
Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.
Robbins, who is thirty-eight and lives in Las Vegas, is a peculiar variety-arts hybrid, known in the trade as a theatrical pickpocket. Among his peers, he is widely considered the best in the world at what he does, which is taking things from people’s jackets, pants, purses, wrists, fingers, and necks, then returning them in amusing and mind-boggling ways. Robbins works smoothly and invisibly, with a diffident charm that belies his talent for larceny. One senses that he would prosper on the other side of the law. “You have to ask yourself one question,” he often says as he holds up a wallet or a watch that he has just swiped. “Am I being paid enough to give it back?”
In more than a decade as a full-time entertainer, Robbins has taken (and returned) a lot of stuff, including items from well-known figures in the worlds of entertainment (Jennifer Garner, actress: engagement ring); sports (Charles Barkley, former N.B.A. star: wad of cash); and business (Ace Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns: Patek Philippe watch). He is probably best known for an encounter with Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service detail in 2001. While Carter was at dinner, Robbins struck up a conversation with several of his Secret Service men. Within a few minutes, he had emptied the agents’ pockets of pretty much everything but their guns. Robbins brandished a copy of Carter’s itinerary, and when an agent snatched it back he said, “You don’t have the authorization to see that!” When the agent felt for his badge, Robbins produced it and handed it back. Then he turned to the head of the detail and handed him his watch, his badge, and the keys to the Carter motorcade.
In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as . . . (MORE) . . .
- Adam Green: The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins, pickpocket. (newyorker.com)
- Video of the Week: The World’s Best Pickpocket (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- The Best Pickpocket in the World (neatorama.com)
- The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins (eliainsider.com)
- A handy guide to pickpocketing (washingtonpost.com)
- Watch This Man Reveal His Pickpocketing Secrets (fox4kc.com)
- Meet The World’s Best Pickpocket (huffingtonpost.com)
- Apollo Robbins: profile of a pickpocket (boingboing.net)
- Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket (schneier.com)
- The Pickpocket Of All Pickpockets (treeofmamre.wordpress.com)